By Coach Wyatt
I’ve seen a wide variety of barbell athletes over the years and you have too. While I'm sure you’ve noticed that there are always the ones that are gifted at their chosen sport. There are also those that are not gifted and have to work their asses off for every single pound.
Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.
The ones that struggle, the ones that have to work harder than the rest. The ones that stay in the sport despite obstacles, end up being the best athletes. That’s not to say being gifted invalidates anyone. But I’ve noticed that the hard gainers are the ones who more often don’t take training for granted.
There is immense value in hard work, and, it has become less appreciated in the last few years. Whether it was Louie pulling a sled behind him for 30 minutes. Or the average high school kid hitting the weight room and two-a-day practices in fall camp. There is a nitty-gritty blue-collar value behind doing hard things over and over.
That’s not to say it was always the smartest training. I do think in the era of research-based training, we have lost sight of the value of hard work.
To tell the truth, smart training is hard training. In some perfect world, we can break everything down into numbers and equations. Get the perfect amount of hard work that has the right stimulus to fatigue ratio. That elicits the best hypertrophy and strength outcomes.
That world doesn’t exist.
Instead, we should strive to have that “one more” mentality, to work our asses off.
That rolls right into the next point.
Make Every Rep Count
Hard gainers can’t afford to take reps off. Every rep matters and if they want to squeeze everything out of each rep, they will move with intent and precision. That means trying to make every rep identical. Every concentric is fast and powerful. Or being deliberate with programmed tempos. They notice the small errors and work to correct them on the next rep and next set.
In reality, everyone should be like that if they want to elicit the best performance.
This is where smart work meets hard work. We don’t want to be meatheads who make every rep hard. We don't have to grind out shitty reps that aren’t productive. Or add infinite sets because “more = better”. We want to make every programmed rep productive towards the end goal.
Don’t Be Comfortable
Back to my original point, don’t be comfortable with where you’re at and what you’ve accomplished. If you are a gifted lifter, don’t think that means you’ve made it and can back off the gas pedal.
“The wolf on top of the hill is not as hungry as the wolf climbing the hill…”
We’ve all heard or read this quote before and it’s very true. That people at the top, whether they worked to be there or were gifted, tend to settle.
There’s a second part to that quote coined by Arnold.
“The wolf on top of the hill is not as hungry as the wolf climbing the hill, but when he wants food it's there.”
It shouldn’t matter if you’re gifted, you should choose to remain hungry. In other words, train like you’re at the bottom. Train like your next PR is anything but guaranteed.
Don’t skip sets.
Don’t skip sessions.
Train on a schedule.
Eat a balanced diet.
Get enough sleep.
Pay attention to technique.
Improve weak areas of each lift.
That's the formula.
I have Rocky as the image for this because it’s one of my favorite stories and a classic example. In Rocky III, he gets comfortable as the world champion. So much so that his training becomes relaxed and lazy and he loses to Mr. T’s character Clubber Lang. In his comeback, he goes to a nitty-gritty, hole in the wall, boxing gym and “restarts”.
He trains like he’s some nobody.
He gets uncomfortable.
He hates training, and in doing so finds his passion for hard work and fighting again. Eventually going on to beat Clubber Lang and take back his title.
For you, the challenge is to skip the relaxed training. You still might see little or no progress on some blocks. You still might have a subpar meet. If you keep training and finding smart ways to challenge yourself, you will get better and you will PR.