MuscleMag - May 2003 / Issue 251

About a year ago I had a series of articles in MuscleMag entitled "Poppa's Principles." There were three articles in the series, one on training, one on nutrition, and one on motivation. Although they were all well received, if my e-mail is any indicator, the article on motivation was far and away the most appreciated of the series. (I really thought the training article would be the biggie of the three. That just goes to show ya how smart I am.) I suppose the appreciation for that particular article docs make sense when you get right down to the nitty-gritty. Every person on the Ilace of this planet can make extraordinary changes in his physique. All people have to do is apply themselves correctly. (The two qualifying words here are apply and correctly.) But how many will ever be motivated to act on what they know they should do?

When the vast majority of people who say they want to improve their health, their physiques and their lives finally do hit the gym, problems arise. All too often when the rubber meets the road, our wheels just spin. First off at least half the folks who decide it's time to get into shape - other than that round shape they currently possess - fall by the wayside within the first month. Then many who really are serious about training fall prey to the bad advice that is so readily available in every gym and pretty much prevents them from making the kind of progress they want and are capable of. That can easily result in a one-year gym membership that gets used for only a few short months.

Even those who show up regularly at the gym often lack the gumption to train effectively. To be sure, you can find self-motivated people out there, but they're few and far between. Add that motivation to some favorable genetics and you've got a potential for success. One can easily pinpoint these genetically superior, highly motivated people: Arnold Sehwarzenegger, Lee Haney, Dorian Yates, ... Oh, it's a big list, but it's also a very exclusive list from both the genetics standpoint and the motivational standpoint. I see people all the time who have good genetics oozing out of their pores, but how many of them have the desire or motivation to ever go to a gym?) Not too many, I'm afraid. Of those who do manage to get to the gym, even on a regular basis, what percentage will have the motivation to even get close to realizing their genetic potential? Even fewer. To be perfectly honest, I'd rather work with somebody of average or even below-average genetics who is highly motivated than someone with great genetics who lacks motivation.

Where do you fit into this hodge-podge of humanity?? The fact that you are reading this magazine does not necessarily mean you are currently training. You might just be a fan of the sport of bodybuilding. If you are training, are you doing all you can do in the gym? Are you making the most of your genetics?? Or are you trying every training routine and diet you see in the mags every month?

I don't believe I've ever seen any human being make the most of his/her genetics, but I'll say this: Nobody will ever even come close to his full potential if his training and diet are not well thought out and structured according to proven principles. This planning takes discipline and motivation. The two words are almost interchangeable.

I should probably mention at this point that I'm referring to those of us who are not interested in blowing $20-30,000 of our hard earned money on - shall we say outside help. Some people think the sport has gotten way out of hand in this area. Many of to day's champion bodybuilders resemble comicbook heroes more than real people. The '60s and '70s are known to most bodybuilding fans as the golden era of bodybuilding. Maybe there's a reason for that.

Back to the business at hand. We're all stuck (or blessed, or a bit of both) with the genetic potential we got at birth. Fine. Make the best of what you have. You know what that takes? Motivation and discipline! (Will this guy ever stop?) Many readers think this motivation/discipline stuff just means you are willing to put in the effort and the time. (Like Nike's "Just do it" slogan.) Not true! Motivation and discipline go a lot deeper than that.

I just mentioned about going from one magazine routine to another, from one diet philosophy to another. People commonly invest only a minimum of thought and effort in any particular training or eating regimen. Yeah, I've been guilty too. Back in my early years my enthusiasm was high, but my attention span was low. Eventually I realized I was just spinning my wheels by making so many changes so often. Not only that, but the changes I made in my workouts and eating programs were not very well thought out. I just copied someone else's methods. After a couple of months of little or no gain I was forced to stop and think about what I was doing. When I did, I came up with some definite conclusions.

The first conclusion I reached was that almost no one I was training with was making much visible progress. (Okay, so that was the second conclusion. The first conclusion was that I was not making much visible progress.) We were all stronger than when we started training, but our physiques hadn't changed much. For me, at least, that was the main idea!

Oh me, oh my! What to do? Well, I'm not gonna layout all of the changes I made. They wouldn't necessarily work for you anyway. The point is, you need to use your head regarding your training and diet. The more you lack in natural ability, the fewer mistakes you can afford to make. Sure, there are some basic guidelines to follow: basic compound exercises done in good form coupled with a sound diet and maybe some prudent supplementation. But these guidelines have a whole lot of wiggle room built into them. How many exercises? How many sets of each? What types of food? High protein/low carbohydrate or the other way around? Do I supplement with protein powder? If so, what kind? What about meal replacements? How often should I eat? I could go on and on.

The discipline comes in doing whatever is required to reach your desired goal. The motivation starts with... well, just starting! Then it extends to finding out what you need to do to get where you want to go. That's gonna take considerable experimentation on your part. If you work with the right trainer, he/she can save you months or even years of frustration. Working with the wrong trainer could wind up costing you just as much time. You have to fight the urge to change what you are doing before it has proven itself one way or another.

When next month's magazines come out, don't change your workout just because the latest champ says, "This is the only way to train." Give everything you do fair consideration. Juggle the merits of a program with the training/diet knowledge you already have to see if it is even worthy of a trial. Invest plenty of effort and a fair amount of time before you toss it for a different routine.

I'll admit I do have a standard workout that I start most people out with, whether they have no training experience or several years of training experience. This group of exercises, done properly, will show me a client's strengths, weaknesses and strength imbalances, as well as go a long way in correcting those weaknesses and imbalances. It can also double or triple the trainee's functional strength in eight to 12 weeks.

Yeah, I know double or triple strength increases in eight to 12 weeks offer quite a bit of latitude, but you need to understand every individual has a different tolerance for exercise, a different rate of recovery, and his own propensity for how quickly or slowly he builds muscle as well as burns fat. (You guessed it ... I'm one of those trainers who can save you a ton of time and effort in achieving your goals.)

Once you get into the gym, your enthusiasm can fuel itself as you make progress. However, the mere fact you go to the gym and go through the motions is no guarantee you'll make good progress, and lack of progress will kill that initial enthusiasm fast! Nike's saying, "Just do it," doesn't work for bodybuilding. You have to use your head, experiment, weigh and measure successes as well as failures. Then you can "just do it!"

Well, not quite. Even diehard bodybuilders, the natural, genetically gifted ones, the ones who seem to grow from just looking at the weights, often have trouble dragging themselves into the gym. Like us mere mortals, they also often have a hard time training once they get there. That's always been a tough one for me to swallow. I mean, if I had that kind of genetic potential, every one of my training sessions would light the place up like a Roman candle!

There's no room for mistakes in your journey to a better physique. Make sure you leave no stone unturned in your quest for muscles. Learn to separate the wheat from the chaff, as they say. There's plenty of great bodybuilding knowledge out there, but unfortunately there's at least three times as much meaningless drivel circulating in every gym in the world. You have to decide what works for you. (And that doesn't mean ask the guy with big arms how he got those guns.) Remember, if you give a method enough of a change, and it works, it will fuel your motivation. That can be as important as properly fueling your body. Train hard, but train smart!

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