Joe Weider, around 1942.
22 or 23 years old and about two years into publishing
Your Physique magazine.
The number of barbell trainees who have access to good personal instruction are very few. Most persons who take up progressive physical training must simply depend upon whatever MISinformation their "teacher" (usually in some sign em up and forget em gym), or some printed course they randomly saw.
Now of course it MAY happen that the trainee is lucky. He just might encounter a competent instructor of he might have obtained a copy of a really fine and proven course (like the Rader Master Bodybuilding Course). Here:
However, from the sacks of mail I get asking questions that my two decades of experience in this field have taught me EVERY GOOD COURSE OR TEACHER WORTH HIS NAME always imparts to a neophyte, I must conclude that the vast majority of trainees are being victimized, rather than EDUCATED, by their "teachers."
My purpose here is not to engage in polemics against the poor instruction that is available -- either from inept teachers or worthless courses. Rather, my intention is to help, as best I can, to clarify what I've come to see as the most common errors trainees make, and to clearly explain how you can avoid or correct these errors.
Serious bodybuilding is hard enough without having to cope with needless obstacles. And, as I shall show you, the most common training errors made are needless and easy to avoid, once you know what you're doing.
The Warning Signals
How do you know, actually, when you really ARE doing something wrong in training? What can you use as a sounding board to determine if you're off course?
The reason I bring up the issue of checking to see if you're making errors in your training methods will sometimes result in temporary bogging down or a slump. Training, remember, is not by ANY means a steady upward course to the top. If it were, then we'd be turning out Supermen by the dozen -- every week! But . . . it just doesn't work that way.
Generally speaking, if you ARE training correctly, you will experience pretty excellent progress for periods of about four to eight weeks before hitting a kind of snag. This block, or period of staleness, as it is often known, is PERFECTLY NORMAL, and absolutely nothing to worry about. It CANNOT be prevented or circumvented by "improving your training," since, in fact, it is caused by your natural biological cycles, and it is the function of sensible training to ACCOMODATE TO your own, unique cycle.
Any so-called expert who tells you that his method of training can carry you from your first workout to the Universe title six or seven years hence with no setbacks, staleness or slumps is a lunatic, an idiot or an out and out lying fraud. Such is the LAST person to whom you ought to turn for your training instruction.
Okay, do depending upon your unique psychological and physical machinery your body can be made to progress fairly well in training for probably AT LEAST four weeks at a time, and almost surely NO MORE than eight weeks at a time. Then, no matter how "right" your training is, you must REST. Usually three to seven days of NO WEIGHTS does the trick of allowing your system to bounce back.
The best thing one can do during layoff is STRETCH daily. Also, mild swimming is useful, or light jogging or rope skipping. No more than 15 minutes daily of such mild exercise is just right for an effective, recuperative layoff period.
Assuming that you ARE training properly, you can and should expect these normal setbacks:
1) A need for a rest of 3-7 days duration from weight training after 4-8 weeks of progressive, all-out hard training.
2) The simple fact that no two workouts can possibly be alike, since you will obviously SOMETIMES have more (or less) energy than at other times. Slight energy and drive fluctuations are NORMAL.
Assuming then that you are NOT training properly, these are the important WARNING SIGNALS that can tip you off to an error in your method, and, quite possibly, save your entire training career:
1) Deep-felt fatigue and exhaustion following your normal training workout. A properly completed workout leaves you with a feeling of pleasant muscle fatigue, and within an hour a feeling of exhilaration and vibrancy.
2) Noticing that you rarely, if ever, feel like training, but anticipate your workouts with dread and think of them as a tedious chore. Naturally you will SOMETIMES feel a desire to do something else when training time arrives . . . but 90 percent of the time, if you're training correctly, workouts become almost the high point of the day and feel quite wonderful to get into.
3) The realization that "cheating" is necessary to perform your exercises, since you just can't hack those poundages in good, strict form. Cheating SOMETIMES is fine, and, occasionally (like once a month) it is even a viable method for advanced power-type workouts; but by and large, excellent form and sharp, crisp style will mark the effective trainee's style.
4) Feeling dragged out and beat BETWEEN workouts. Energy should abound on your off days, between workouts. It is during this time that your system's recuperative efforts should be recharging and revitalizing you, unless you've gone overboard in your workout.
5) Making no progress -- permanently! Naturally, there will be times when progress is slow or nonexistent. This is natural and, for training purposes, really significant. But NEVER progressing, or feeling oneself actually retrogressing, is a sign that training is definitely out of whack.
If you discover and of those warning signals manifesting in YOU, the you are SURELY doing something wrong in training, and your poor progress is not due to any normal slump or setback.
By going over this list of common training errors that I've compiled to help guide you, you can discover your mistake and take immediate action to overcome and correct it.
It will pay you even if your training is right now going fine, to examine the following list with some thought . . . for it will aid you in becoming PREPARED to deal with what might otherwise be a serious block to your objectives.
Error No. 1
TAKING TOO MANY WORKOUTS DURING THE COURSE OF ANY GIVEN WEEK.
I have always been of the personal opinion that the best training method is to take TOTAL BODY WORKOUTS, rather than so-called split workouts. When maximally severe total body workouts are taken, three such workouts per week, on alternate days, are the MOST your body can tolerate, and gain on. And YES, this applies equally to easy gainers.
On those very few instances when I've worked out split schedules for insistent trainees, I have always restricted such a course to no more than FOUR sessions per week. I use this method:
Cheat, Back, Shoulders, Abdominals
Legs, Arms, Abdominals
I ask you to note that such a schedule provides TWO actual total body workouts during the course of any given week's time. Not enough? You've got to be kidding! I defy anyone to follow such as schedule and PUSH TO THE LIMIT, and then want "more."
Don't some of the champs train five, six and even seven days a week? Yes, they do. And some of them are out and out fanatics and muscle nuts.
Don't train more than three times a week on a total body schedule, or four times a week in split sessions, if you absolutely insist on following that method.
Error No. 2
LETTING ANY ONE WORKOUT BECOME TOO EXTENDED -- USING TOO MANY EXERCISES, SETS AND VARIATIONS.
The idea that "if X amount of training equals a good workout, then 3X will make me Superman" is just plain drivel. The truth is: If an hour of hard work is right for you, then any more will be WRONG.
We can pursue this point. If three sets of dumbbell curls are enough to make your arms grow, then you SHOULD NOT do a fourth set -- because once you've done enough, you begin OVER-training that body part, and literally, PREVENTING progress.
You should view weight training as the supreme ultimate physical training form. it is the the hardest, most intensively concentrated physical training method known, and, as a result, it must be CAREFULLY REGULATED AND CONTROLLED -- like potent medicine -- for good results to be obtained in usage. Weight training is the easiest form of exercise to overdo.
Sure enough, one set of any good, basic exercise, properly done, will start the necessary fiber breakdown required for growth stimulation. Two sets are almost always enough -- with ALL OUT training, and NO ONE, no matter whom it may be, requires more than three sets. In fact, it can be taken as axiomatic that, in all out training, the fact that a pupil can do more than three sets is proof that he's loafing.
I am aware that many advanced barbell men THINK they need more than three sets, but they're wrong. I suspect that what actually exists is a subjective preference on the advanced man's part to do MORE rather than to work HARDER.
Using too many exercises for any one body area is also a serious, self-defeating mistake. The idea that a wide variety of exercises are needed for "shape and definition" is not true. Your DIET has the greatest bearing on shape and definition, as well as your hereditary tendency to be either thick or thin skinned, and your natural, inherent body shape.
There is never justification for using more than TWO BASIC EXERCISES FOR ANY ONE MAJOR BODY ARES. Generally, one exercise per body part is plenty.
By restricting your workouts to the cream of the basic exercises and by going ALL OUT on them, your maximum development is assured. Do less, but do it HARDER, and get more!
Error No. 3
FAILING TO MAINTAIN WHAT I CALL THE DELICATE DEVELOPMENTENT BALANCE.
Generally, trainees either use weights that are too heavy -- and they cheat; or they use weights that are too light, and they fail to put sufficient ENERGY into hard sets to make progress.
The real secret of correct training is TO USE THE MAXIMUM WEIGHT THT YOU CAN PROPERLY HANDLE IN GOOD, STRICT, CORRECT EXERCISE FORM FOR THE REQUIRED SETS AND REPS.
Once the weight becomes too heavy to work with in good form, it is useless to continue with it. Better by far to use a much lighter weight that takes less effort, but that allows correct form to be maintained.
In reality, this is the hardest and most productive course to follow. It produces the finest, most permanent and healthy gains.
I repeat: Use the heaviest possible weights that you can properly manage in good, strict exercise style. This is the secret to productive training.
Don't use weights that are too heavy.
Don't use weights that are too light.
Keep that delicate developmental balance.
Error No. 4
FAILING TO WARM UP PROPERLY, OR DOING TOO MUCH WARMING UP AND TOO LITTLE TRAINING.
To warm up properly is vital. You should always do a warmup for your entire body prior to commencing the day's workout -- and you do require ONE warmup set before doing the all out heavy sets in any very demanding exercise (like the squat, bench press or deadlift).
The trouble with warming up is that most trainees either don't do enough or they do too much. For example: a man who does three or four progressively heavier sets in the squat (never really WORKING any one set to its ultimate is just loafing through his session, and wasting valuable time. One warmup set followed by one (or possibly two) maximum all out sets is PLENTY. Neglecting the warmup could prove disastrous -- but doing nothing more than a series of warmups will hardly prove more than time consuming. Muscles GROW when they are FORCED to grow -- and continual warming up forces nothing.
Some exercises (like curls) often do not require any warmup, except in unusual power-type training. Use your judgement here. If the first set hurts, you NEED the warmup. If not, forget it.
Error No. 5
NEGLECTING TO DELIBERATELY CULTIVATE AND USE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE.
Your mind is so essential for success in physical training that I will say flatly, and invite my challenger to dispute me, that NO MAN CAN ACHIEVE HIS MAXIMUM DEVELOPMENTAL POTENTIAL WITHOUT A DYNAMIC, POSITIVE, HEALTHY AND STRONG ATTITUDE.
Believe in yourself, and believe in the rightness of weight training as a means to your objective!
Refuse to accept nastiness from others; reject criticism, block out any and all negatives, and FIGHT unrelentingly for what you desire.
I contend that, instead of complaining about the efforts severe training demands, we should be grateful for having the sound health and wherewithal to MAKE THOSE EFFORTS IN THE FIRST PLACE. I would remind readers that there are thousands of unfortunate people all over the world in sick beds and hospitals who would trade everything they own for the chance to be in your shoes, and have the privilege of SWEATING and WORKING and TRAINING that you have.
Count your blessings and don't complain, or accept the complaints of others. Resolve to put every iota of work into the attainment of your objectives and goals in life and SUCCEED.
Cultivate the positive attitude so essential to success in training.
Error No. 6
FAILING TO PUT FORTH ABSOLUTE AND TOTAL CONCENTRATION IN EVERY SET YOU DO.
The only way to make a set work for you is to work on the set!
Whenever a bodybuilder breezes through a set he can kiss any hoped-for results from that set goodbye. To get results -- to get the MOST out of those 5, 6, 7 or 8 reps you grind out, POUR A 101% EFFORT INTO EACH REP!
I often start a new trainee off by forcing him to give up multiple sets ENTIRELY for one month. He does one, single set each of 12-15 basic exercises, and I make him work each set 'till he's ready to fold up. My purpose is to condition and train him to UNDERSTAND and APPRECIATE the vital significance of pouring all out effort into every single, important individual set in the program.
One set is almost always plenty of work -- providing a 100% level of effort-output is poured into that set.
When you do any set get a VIVID MENTAL IMAGE of the muscle group you're working and get into that muscle group. Make every set a world unto itself and drive your muscle fibers mercilessly on that set. Believe me, there is GOLD in the preceding sentences!
For the purpose of this article, I've chosen to focus upon your specific training errors that probably account for any failure to progress satisfactorily which you may have encountered.
There is much experience -- both practical and theoretical -- behind the advice contained herein, and it behooves you to learn the information well -- and APPLY IT.
You don't have to make the common training errors that cause so many hardworking people in the iron game to fail. You can correct your errors and get back on the road toward SUCCESS.
Will you make the effort?
Enjoy Your Lifting!