The Iron Game – Rules To Success
What are the rules to succeeding in the gym? We all know people who have started lifting weights and going to the gym with the enthusiasm of a teenager waking up on a Friday morning before the start of the summer holidays knowing they have six weeks of no school ahead. But then fast forward and many of those same people act like those same kids who wake up on the first morning back to school after a long break, devoid of enthusiasm and thinking not again….
So how can you make your life in the gym better? How do you keep up the passion for something you once loved so much? A lot of what I will write is probably old to you, you may have heard it before, but that’s fine, there’s many ways to succeed and many ways to skin a cat and these ‘ways’ are just some of what I recommend to help you get further in the gym.
There is a very popular saying ‘Patience has its virtues’ and this is true for many things in life but it is also especially true in the gym. If you are going into the gym thinking you will end up looking like Arnie within a year you are likely to last as long as the Pakistani batting line up on a seaming English wicket. You must be in this for the long term, the body is great at adapting to new stimulus and after the initial shock to the body of lifting weights(which lasts around 6 months and known as ‘beginner gains’) things will slow down. Knowing it will take time will help you get over the inevitable plateaus and slow down later on down the line allowing you to get over the hump and continue ploughing through.
You start off going to the gym every day, lifting weights at every opportunity, then 3 months later it is 3 times per week, 6 months later it is twice per week, one year later it is once per week and then eventually it becomes once every now and then, before you go through a renewed sense of purpose(maybe after the new year or an upcoming event such as a holiday or wedding) and then you repeat the cycle all over again. You’re not going to make any decent gains if you are not consistent, this is the same for anything in life, if you’re only spending an hour a week in the gym, whereas that is better than nothing, you should expect results which reflect an hours worth of weight training a week. You must be consistent in the gym, that means creating a routine and sticking to it, if you decide you will weight train 3 times per week, don’t go twice, if something is important to you, you make the time for it, sure there are always times when something comes up and you cannot make the gym but fit the work out in on another day then. Don’t miss work outs, it will add up and it will slow your progress. Consistency can also be tied into discipline.
No that time kind of growth although I’ll get to it here too but I mean growth as in pushing yourself, challenge yourself. In life, for anything, to get better at something you must challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. In the same way you may be going to a job you aren’t happy with because you’re waking up the same time to go to work to do the same thing, learning nothing new, don’t go to the gym and do the exact same thing. Life is about growth, try to prevent yourself from getting comfortable for long periods of time, push yourself to be better and in the gym this means not going to the same work out lifting the same amount of weight for the same amount of reps week in week out. Aim to make progress, any type of progress, whether it is one extra rep or one extra kilo on the bar, always try to better yourself. Not only will this fulfill the mental aspect of working towards a goal in the gym but also the physical side, your muscles will respond to being pushed by growing and getting stronger.
Always build your weight lifting routine around the big compound movements, these are the basic exercises which build the foundation to a quality physique. That means you should be Squatting, Deadlifting, Flat bench and Overhead pressing as the core movements. The back and legs make up around 70% of your body, if you are training these two parts hard, it makes sense there will be a spill over effect to the rest of the body, whether it is size you want or strength, you will achieve it much quicker by training the back and legs through the compound movements. Whatever your goal is in the gym, the compound movements will help you reach your goals quicker, don’t neglect them in favour of isolation work. If I was to add a few more exercises into the mix I would say Bent Over Row’s, Wide Grip Pull ups and Overhead Squats(even better if you can progress these to the Snatch Balance one and Snatch Balance two)
The basics of my training doesn’t really change through the year, yet in winters I tend to be around 15st, at the time of writing this I am 13st 9 – why? Because all that has changed is my diet, whereas in the colder months I tend to relax my diet and end up feasting on flapjacks, pringles(sour cream and onion, prawn cocktail in case you’re wondering what I recommend), cheesecake(they’re all good) and bakewell tarts, in summers they are replaced with healthier options(more chicken and more fish). We have all heard the saying you are what you are eat and its true, if you eat rubbish you will likely end up looking like rubbish. You must be eating well to look well. I have already mentioned consistency, and to lose weight you must be consistent in your diet(same applies to gain good weight) you cannot be eating well for a day or two and then blow it by eating badly for a day, it does set you back more than you think. There are many ways to lose weight, carb cycling, ketosis, atkins, 5:2, intermittent fasting etc etc find one which suits your lifestyle and then stick to it consistently. Also I must mention patience again, it may have taken you 4 weeks(or less if you happen to have a sweet tooth like me) to add on that stone, that doesn’t mean it is going to take 4 weeks to lose it. As I have said before, the body can adapt and it likes to be stable, be patient and expect it to take 3 months or more to lose the weight(depending on how much you have to lose) so do not give up hope too early, often what I find is you are stuck at a specific weight for weeks, not losing even a lb then all of a sudden you will lose a few lbs in a week. Keep going and don’t quit.
Keep your head in check and stay away from ego lifting. Don’t get involved in mind games and macho-ism of trying to impress other people with your lifts, don’t try to run before you can jump and try to out lift the person who was on the bench before you. Lift what is challenging for YOU and not for someone else. Not only are you risking injury by participating in silly gym games but you are also taking yourself off the road and down the hill especially if your form suffers due to lifting too much weight, don’t be one of those people who claim to squat 200kg but actually only do quarter reps, that’s about as much use as a chocolate teapot on a hot summers day. Set your goal and stick to it, don’t bother about what other people think. Be confident and secure in yourself knowing you are working towards a goal with a firm plan set in mind. Look, there is always going to be someone stronger than you in a certain lift or better than you at a specific movement, although it is good to look at them and think ‘yes I want to lift more than them some day’ that means progressively and slowly increasing the weight, that does not mean you try benching 120kg when you’re 1 rep max is currently 80kg and you’re only doing it because someone keeps staring at you or someone you don’t like is in the gym(and you saw them lifting more than you). Leave the ego lifting well alone.
So there you have just six rules to help you succeed in the gym, so keep these rules in mind, Patience, Consistency, Growth, Compounds, Diet, Ego and you will still be enjoying the rewards of weight training even after a decade with the iron.
Boxing Coach Strength and Conditioning Coach Boxing Writer for the Ringside Report Boxing Author of: (Available for download on Amazon) The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit! Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle