T Nation

Consistency & Discipline in Training

What is the better aircraft, a 747 Jumbo Jet, an FA-18, or a single prop piper cub? The answer would have to depend on the intended purpose. A Jumbo Jet is great for transporting a large number of passengers across the Atlantic Ocean, but would be lousy at crop dusting in Nebraska.

The piper cub is ideal for dusting crops, but would probably not last long in an aerial battle against hostile MIGS. Even though each of these planes has completely different designs and purposes, they all fly because they are designed to comply with the principles of aerodynamics. A plane (or a pilot) that violates the principles of aerodynamics will not fly or at best will not fly for very long.

The same is true for weight training programs. The ones that are effective all have common foundations and principles, even though they may appear completely different. There are countless numbers of routines and programs to choose from and this often creates confusion among lifters.

A common mistake that I see is trainees constantly in search of a new program, thinking that they are missing out on something. This creates doubt in the mind of the lifter and adversely affects their progress. You must give ANY program a certain length of time in order to achieve progress. An average program that is performed with consistency and determination is FAR SUPERIOR to the best program that is done intermittently and with doubt. The selection of a training program must also reflect the goals and objectives of the lifter.

Whenever I am asked a question such as “What’s a good program or what’s a good exercise”? My standard response is to ask “What are you trying to accomplish with this program/exercise?” and it’s rare that I get anything more than a vague reply. The more specific you are with your training goals the easier it will be to identify the path to their achievement.

It is important to always keep in mind that progress is almost never linear or constant except perhaps in the first year or so of training after which gains often come in isolated batches and often at unexpected times.

This reminds me of when I was a boy and had to split logs into firewood. I would place the steel wedge into a seam in the log and then begin pounding it with a sledgehammer. After approximately 14 hard blows, there was no visible evidence that the wedge had penetrated the log in.

However, the 15th blow would result in the wedge cleanly splitting the log into two or more pieces. The first 14 strikes did not appear to do much, but they were slowly breaking down the resistance of the wood. I can directly relate this to my training as I would train hard for weeks, often months without ANY sign or measurable progress and then all of a sudden BAM I would go up 20-30lbs on one lift or would put on 5-6lbs of solid bodyweight, and though the measurable results seem to appear instantly-they were the result of months of consistent and persistent effort.

If you go to the majority of bodybuilding/lifting type message boards, you will see that many of the members are constantly changing their programs-one week they are on a ?bulk?, the next week they are on a ?cut?, etc, etc. I can guarantee that if these guys were put on trial and charged with the crime of weight training, they would be acquitted due to lack of evidence.

One of the biggest myths in resistance training is that you have to constantly change your program in order to ?keep the muscles confused? or some similar statement.-guys-it just ain?t true-?. Can you think of any sport of athletic endeavor where the training protocol consists of constant change? Do sprinters do this? swimmers? Track and Field athletes?

how about skill athletes? Now I believe you have to have some variety in your training and this is more of a mental thing than a physical thing.

I believe most people would be best served by selecting 6-7 core exercises and sticking with them for their entire lives. When you feel you need to change your program, simply vary the repetition scheme or even vary the style of the core exercise, but if you are constantly changing exercises, then it is difficult to get really good at performing them.

Write down all of the exercises you use in your program and then create a list of “check-points” that are important for each lift. Develop a habit of mentally referring to those checkpoints on each and every repetition and eventually they will become second nature to you. Larry Bird used to do this when shooting free throws. He had a mental list of things to do when shooting and he would go through them over and over in his mind until he could make long strings of consecutive shots.

There is a story that when Larry was playing still an NBA pro, he was hired to appear in some commercials for McDonalds. The first commercial called for him to shoot and miss a free throw in practice. The first 22 takes were failures because he was unable to miss the free throw. This is a good example of proper mental conditioning and discipline.

If your progress has truly stalled, then you might need to modify your training program-notice that I said modify, not change. If you have a decent program, based largely on the fundamentals, then chances are you just need to mix-up either your repetition scheme or the order of your basic movements. If you have been doing mostly low-medium reps, then perform higher reps for 4-5 sessions.

If you have been doing nothing but high reps, then consider working in the lower rep range for a couple of weeks. Try rest pause training, power rack training, drop sets, or timed sets for a couple of weeks to break the plateau, and then resume your normal routine. It has been my experience that most of the time when progress is stalled or appears to stall, it is due to ?head space? and has little or nothing to do with your physical state.

Yes, overtraining happens and yes your CNS can get overtaxed, but nearly as much as the internet bodybuilding wonders would have you believe-most of the time it is because you have lost your focus and your enthusiasm-this whole thing is about getting your mind and your attitude right.-trust me on that one.

I realize we live in a world where virtually everything is instantly available-cable on demand, ATM?s, overnight delivery. All of the fitness and bb magazines promote ?12 week plans? or ?6 weeks to a six-pack?, but you have to be patient and realize that that strength and development takes time-in fact, I have observed that the longer it takes to acquire the longer you seem to retain in ( sort of like money)

Be patient and think long term. Have a ten year plan, a five year plan, a one year plan, a 90 day plan, a monthly plan and a daily plan-sounds like a lot of planning, well it is, but the results are well worth it.

Stay Strong

Keith

[quote]…

I can guarantee that if these guys were put on trial and charged with the crime of weight training, they would be acquitted due to lack of evidence.

…[/quote]

Great article! That that line is classic.

Great article Keith.

This is an excellent post

great analogy with the wood splitting.

Great article! i needed to hear that

Great stuff, Keith.

good post. reminds me of something my MMA buddy told me recently about something his teacher had taught him.

goes something like this: you only need to master two or three techniques to be an effective fighter. if you can MASTER two or three techniques, even if your opponent knows of your techniques, you can still pull them off under any circumstances… you’ll just be that good.

i think there’s some truth to this is strength training and bodybuilding. if you can become ridiculously awesome with a handful of hardcore compound movements, you’ll get so much more out of those movements than other trainees who can only think of moving parts of an exercise <chest, triceps> rather than being able to also activate their lats and abs in a bench press, for example.

but i largely agree with the above post. that’s not to say that dumbell curls and hanging tucks/pikes don’t have their place in a good training program, but yes constant switching is ridiculous, as is the concept of ‘confusing’ your muscles.

What is this, write a thread about inspiration week? I just read all this determination stuff in the Arnold’s Genetics thread. Nice pep talk, but I wish you had tips on training.

Thank you, Keith, that was great.

Your friend was correct.
A story about mastery: My friend obtained his BBJ purple belt over 10 yrs ago, when the only way to obtain high level belts was to roll with a Gracie. So at conventions and meets, if your teacher thought were ready, you’d roll.

My friend rolled with Renzo or Royce, I don’t remember. All my friend had to do was this: he was told what move Renzo or whomever was going to do, the objective was to avoid it as long as possible. Renzo was able to tap everyone, every time, even tho they all knew it was coming. THAT is mastery.

[quote]hueyOT wrote:
good post. reminds me of something my MMA buddy told me recently about something his teacher had taught him.

goes something like this: you only need to master two or three techniques to be an effective fighter. if you can MASTER two or three techniques, even if your opponent knows of your techniques, you can still pull them off under any circumstances… you’ll just be that good.
[/quote]

I wish Keith could write full length articles for T-Nation.

I remember him from a few older forums, he is very knowledgeable.

This is an awesome post.
I go around thinking this stuff, but it means so much more to actually have someone else verbalize it.
It is obvious that Keith has his crap together!

never heard of you keith but damn this is some good stuff…serves as news to newbies and a reminder to veterans…

I’m glad Keith is back. I appreciate his posts alot more now then I used to.

Growing older and wiser means realizing how ingorant you are I 'spose…

At any rate, thanks Keith.

[quote]Keith Wassung wrote:

It has been my experience that most of the time when progress is stalled or appears to stall, it is due to “head space” and has little or nothing to do with your physical state. [/quote]

Nice post Keith, I particularly liked this quote. I have found this to be the case many times. Some sessions just feel rough, like you are you going through the motions, but a bit of determination and focus can often turn a poor session into a great one.

Joe.