What I'd like to write about this week is something I feel is often missed. It's something that as a coach or a competitor we assume is in place. It's a given. But for some people it actually goes out the window. The key factor I'm talking about here is off course effort.
Before I begin I'm going to preface what I say with the following. You should always train in a manner that is suitable for your current requirements and goals. You should be able to recover adequately from training and it should suit your practical circumstances.
Having said all that, some people just don't put in enough effort to their training to achieve substantial results. This does not mean you should be pushing at crazy levels of intensity, to and beyond the point of failure etc. What it means is you need to be realistic with yourself, you need to have goals, you need to have the right attitude, you need to push yourself appropriate to your training level and you need to physically do what is required to get the results.
When I talk about being realistic I think you should primarily be comparing yourself to yourself. Are you improving or making progress towards what you'd like to achieve? Is it decent progress? Is it sustainable? What does your physique look like? Are you stronger or weaker than a year ago? Occasionally you may want to compare yourself to others and I think in some circumstances that can be useful as a bit of a wake up call. But for the most part just be realistic by comparing yourself to yourself and asking yourself whether you are really improving. If you're not sure you might need to use some means to measure progress. If you're not improving slowly over time, you need to ask yourself "why?".
This is really important. You need to know what you are trying to achieve in the long term and in the short term when you are training. Even if your goal is vague eg "gaining muscle", it's still something that you can take action towards. If you are turning up at the gym just to tick off the box of going to the gym and you're really not aware of why you are going or what you want to achieve then you're in trouble. If you don't know why you are there in the first place then your training sessions most likely aren't going to be structured and any results you achieve will be haphazard. I'm sure some people have gotten results this way but you are better off having a goal and working towards it.
Many people these days are rather minimalist with their approach to training. That is, they do the least they possibly can in order to get results. I can see that at times this is quite appropriate but sometimes it promotes laziness and a naturally lazy person will gravitate towards applying this philosophy constantly. "Why do more, if I can get away with doing less?" they will think. The key phrase there is "get away with". Sure you get away with it but it isn't help you achieve the best possible results. Doing less will generally get you the minimum result. At times (but not always) doing more will actually help you achieve a more substantial result. In most cases the person who is willing to do more will get a greater result. Of course there is a limit to this and the danger is the over zealous person may run themselves into the ground and be unable to recover adequately. As such you need to know when doing more is appropriate and when you need to back off. Sometimes doing whatever it takes actually means backing off and doing less when you want to do more. It's all in the attitude.
What I mean here is sometimes we are lying to ourselves with how hard we are training or how much we can lift. For example I've seen (male) bodybuilders who have been training for five or more years still doing two to three plates per side on the leg press. I cannot fathom how that is even possible considering when I was a weak, skinny teenager I leg pressed two plates per side the first time I ever trained legs! In cases like this it might be because the person is too lazy to load up more plates onto the machine, because they don't want to challenge themselves or maybe they are even a bit scared. Whatever the case is they have told themselves that a two to three plates per side leg press is adequate for building muscle and strength. It really doesn't matter what you are lifting, but you need to be real with yourself. Are you cruising on an easy weight or are you pushing yourself to improve and gradually become stronger over time?
Do what is required
This is what it boils down to. To get results you need to be doing a certain amount at minimum and perhaps more to achieve a greater result. If you aren't doing enough of a "dose" of effective training then you won't improve or you might only see very modest changes. You may even go backwards in some cases.
I want to compare this to dieting. We know that in order to lose body fat we need to be in a caloric deficit. If I'm not in a deficit I'm generally not going to lose body fat. It's the same with training. If you aren't training at all you won't build any muscle or strength. And if you aren't training very much then you cannot expect muscle or strength gain to be significant. You have to do at minimum what is enough for you.
I've seen people with quite good knowledge of training and nutrition achieve less in the way of training induced adaptations than people who have a sub par knowledge of these areas. The difference is largely effort (sometimes genetics can play a role too). Essentially the people with below average knowledge just wanted it more and they put more effort into everything. They "outworked" the competition. This isn't always the case, because sometimes people who try really hard can get poor results too simply because they are applying crappy diets and training routines. But for the most part effort and consistency will win out if the person with a lot of knowledge is lazy.
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